Hearts of Love on Valentine’s Day

In a turbulent world, let's share love

On this Valentine’s Day, let’s love not just in word, but in deed.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means hearts and chocolates, lace and roses, confessions of love and statements of commitment.  Our society, here in the United States, seems to be undergoing a fierce shaking apart.  Those who profess love protest in the streets.  The ones hurting the deepest feel the most alone while the loudest voices shake in anger.

And we serve a God who says, “Love one another.”

That’s what He asks.  What are we going to do?

This week at my school (I teach grades 7-10) we’re collecting Pennies for Patients.  At our youth group we collected toiletries for people without homes.  On my Facebook feed I see dear friends who’ve lost a parent and/or I see pleas for help for new cancer diagnoses, large bills for treatment or prayers for comfort as a loved one goes on hospice care.  I listen to or read prayer requests of broken homes, messed up families, drug abuse and pain.

Meanwhile the streets are filled with people yelling about love.

I don’t want to hear any more yelling.  Not that they’re wrong, just that yelling doesn’t solve it.  And I’m a retired caregiver, a teacher, a wife and a mom who is tired of noise.

I want to see hearts and chocolates, lace and roses, and I want to hear confessions of love and commitment.  I want our country to stop yelling and protesting and start loving.  God says it, and He says things for a reason.

Love is the only way the world heals.

So for those who come across this post, or your own conscience that tells us to actually DO something in love, let’s make this Valentine’s day something powerful.  Let’s fill our world with LOVE.

Make this Valentine's day something powerful #loveoutloud #Valentine'sDay Click To Tweet

I have, of course, some things near and dear to my heart, and I’ll post some links in case you’re looking for ways to share your love today, in a tangible way.  But there are a million ways out there to show love and care – find your way and DO it!

Love List

  1.  Donate to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.  They support research in a big way.  I’m partial to this one because it was my son’s battle.
  2. St. Jude is a children’s research hospital.  There are many, this is one of the more famous.  The beauty of childhood cancer research is that they share, and are thus making more progress than many adult cancer research programs.  Also, St. Jude seeks treatment for every child, without billing parents (at least that’s what they advertise).
  3. Look for your local school district.  Almost any classroom teacher would love some new books or some additional items to help in his/her classroom.  How about volunteering to listen to a child read?  It’s not as easy now as it used to be, our laws mean strict vetting of volunteers, but it’s still possible.
  4. How about assisting in a homeless shelter near you?  Google finds you lots of places that could use help.  I know the one near us is thrilled to get packages of toiletries.
  5. Donate blood.  There is ALWAYS a need.  I can attest to the fact that sometimes even children have to wait for blood, or platelets (that’s the one we always had to wait for) in times of crisis.  Donate!

This is just a tiny list of ways to reach out a share your Valentine heart of love with someone this week.  I’m sure you have a list too.  In fact, if you have a link you’d like to leave in the comments, let’s spread the love!

God bless you as you share your heart this week.

Let's fill our world with LOVE #Valentine'sDay Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Six Tips for Family Caregivers During a Catastrophe

Baby Steps at the Hospital

catastropheThe Family Caregiver’s Guide to Self-Care at the Hospital

“Excuse me,” I interrupted the nurse as she stood at the desk working on charts. “I don’t think Pedro received his pain meds.”

“Let me check,” she replied with a busy frown. “Yes, it says right here that he had his meds an hour ago.”

“If you check your supply, I’m sure you’ll see that he didn’t receive them,” I insisted. I couldn’t believe my bravery—normally, I avoid conflicts at all cost. “The last nurse came in and said she would bring the meds, and then something came up. After that, the shifts changed.”

With a dubious, harried look, the nurse took off down the hallway towards the pharmacy dispensing room. I trailed behind.

Two minutes later, the chagrinned nurse came out of the room with a paper cup full of meds in her hand. “You’re right,” she said, and headed to Pedro’s room.

THIS was why I spent every spare minute in the hospital—to prevent human error from harming my husband. I might not be able to cure his cancer, but I could make sure he didn’t suffer because overworked and underpaid nurses forgot to dispense his meds.

The Slippery Slope of Caregiving

When a family member gets launched into a health crisis, primary caregivers get launched into a tandem trajectory of life changes. Our bodies enter the fright, flight, or freeze state—usually choosing to fight for our loved one.

Within hours, we go through a mental list of everything we will give up or reschedule in order to remain by our loved one’s side until the crisis resolves. All too often, we slip into a state of mind where we believe our presence and participation are indispensible.

Within hours, days, or weeks (depending on the severity of the circumstances) a firm conviction grows in our minds that if we step outside the hospital room, something worse will happen. Our fear keeps us tethered to the bedside of our loved one. Friends or other family members might encourage us to step away and take a break, but we KNOW that if we do, something bad will happen.

I fell into that trap during Pedro’s cancer year. It didn’t help that partway through the year, his early remission turned into a catastrophic relapse. It also didn’t help that he needed specialized treatment a thousand miles away. To make things worse, other family members lived closer to Pedro’s new hospital—and they, too, felt that their presence provided the only barrier between Pedro’s recovery and certain death.

We came to an uneasy compromise (neither of us fully trusted the other to do the right thing) about caregivers in Pedro’s hospital room. For his entire hospital stay during the worst of his illness, a family member spent the night (and often all of the day) with him.

Of course, my single-minded, hyper-focused dedication ended up harming me. In order to achieve balance and not endanger my own health, I finally made some changes.

Six Tips for Family Caregivers at the Hospital

1. Learn the schedule. Know the daily routine—when the nurses dispense meds and when the doctor makes rounds. Use an app on your phone or a good old-fashioned notebook that gets passed from caregiver to caregiver.Six tips for finding balance as a #caregiver when catastrope strikes. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1BZ

2. Keep track of meds and adverse drug interactions. Pedro figured out that Zofran (a drug to prevent nausea) actually made him vomit. More than once, family caregivers had to point out to medical staff that he had a reaction and shouldn’t be given the medicine.

3. Take breaks! Every morning I would walk down the street to the local Starbucks. I always went before the shift change and well before rounds or meds (see #1 and #2). The brisk walk and change of scenery did me a world of good.

4. Take the stairs. Walking up 11 flights of stairs several times a day might not seem like self-care. But believe me, the endorphins helped counteract the stress-induced cortisol. Sneak in as much vigorous exercise as possible.

5. Share the burden. I came to really appreciate the family members who spent time with Pedro so that I could keep my job. Their love and participation in the duties made my life easier.

6. Breathe deeply. I know, it sounds self-explanatory. But throughout Pedro’s crisis, I resorted to shallow breathing—which harmed my health. Take time-outs throughout the day to breath deeply and think of things that bring you peace.

I know these all seem like baby steps. When a loved one experiences a catastrophe, baby steps might be all a family caregiver can take. Remember, survival mode takes precedence—and that actually helps you through the initial crisis.

These small steps will help you maintain balance and a sense of control when the world seems horribly out of the control.

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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The Power of Pudding

helping the medicine go down

 

Finding the secret to giving a young boy the nastiest tasting medicine became the challenge of my life over-night when he was diagnosed with leukemia. We tried everything.  Applesauce, ice cream, juice, Popsicles, regular food he liked (burritos were a favorite) yogurt and just plain water.  Nothing made that bitter, metallic taste palatable.  Applesauce worked pretty well for one medication, but made another worse.  It was a mystery and fighting a fussy four-year-old over medicine designed to save his life wasn’t really an option.  I had to win this battle!

And then one day, magic happened.  We tried pudding.  Vanilla didn’t work and butterscotch didn’t work, but with chocolate we struck gold. With chocolate pudding my boy could choke down his medicine with only a slight shudder shaking his body.  A good pudding chaser and he was happy. We had discovered the magic potion for medications.  The power of pudding!

If you’re a caregiver, you know what I’m talking about.  You look for that magic thing to coax someone to take another bite, or swallow their meds or relax those muscles enough for therapy.  If you’re a mother you look for the right currency to generate cooperation in your kiddos.  If you’re a teacher you look for the motivation to inspire something beyond the fill-in-the-blank mentality.  If you’re a coach…well, you get the picture.

In our every day lives it is more and more apparent that we’re going to need some pudding for life!  Sounds crazy, but think about it.

Politics. I’m not going to get into any political debates, don’t worry, but seriously, do we think we’ve put our best foot forward with our election options?  How about country relations? Global environment?

Crime. Lord, will the shootings ever stop?

Abuse.  Neglect.  Starvation.

Ugliness is pretty much everywhere.  It’s hard to take what’s happening in our lives sometimes.  It’s hard for Christians to argue that God is in control when things are so ugly.  Except we know He is. We know He holds our future, but the “now” can be pretty hard to swallow.

We know He holds our future, but the “now” can be pretty hard to swallow. #inspirememonday… Click To Tweet

So today I have some pudding for you.  Something to help us get through the bitterness of what this world has to offer.  Something to make the “now” palatable, although still not great.  Something to stop the shudders of nightmares and the tears of grief.

Here’s some medicine to get us through today, and this medicine has far more power than pudding.  Please add your preferred pudding/medicine in the comments below!

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

 

 

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

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The Caregiver’s 23rd Psalm (God Will Provide)

The other day as I studied Psalm 23, I found myself rewriting it in the margin of my Bible from a caregiver’s point of view.  Caregivers and sheep have a lot in common.  They feel clueless, helpless, and vulnerable (ok, I’ve never asked a sheep if this is how they feel, but they don’t run around marking their territory and acting invincible).

caregiver's psalm

The Caregiver’s Psalm

God provides for me, a caregiver—he offers to meet my every need.
He provides food, time for reflection and rest (but all too often I forget to take what he offers).

He knows my quirks and indulges me because he loves me. I feel refreshed when I spend time with him—a deep-down renewal from the toes up.

I might not always want to go where he leads, because I often think that I know best. But I have to remember that his ways are better than my way—they lead to right actions and right living. His ways lead to a closer, more intimate relationship with him.

Sometimes the path he leads me down scares me to the point of rebellion and refusal because it looks too frightening; filled with worst-case scenarios and things I don’t think I can handle. So I take a deep breath and remember that he walks with me, ready to guide me each step of the way through what terrifies me.

Not only does he walk with me, he has gone before me and conquered evil. God has a plan that will use me and my experiences to help others understand his character and perfect love.

The hard times simply prepare me to love—even my enemies and the people who annoy me.

Your love acts as a balm to my ruffled feathers, Oh, God, and fills me with peace so that I can function. Your goodness and love infuse my life—making me fit for living as part of your kingdom and caring for the person you have entrusted to me.

I am the caregiver, you are the curegiver. No matter where this journey leads me, I know that you walk beside me.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

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Listen to Your Heritage (It Has the Power to Transform You)

Listen to Longfellow

listen

Whenever I hear the word ‘Listen’ I immediately think of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem about Paul Revere:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere… (http://poetry.eserver.org/paul-revere.html)

Of course, I especially love the poem because of the family connection. Paul Revere happens to be my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. I have loved history ever since my grandma told me of my connection to Paul Revere.

As an awkward, introverted kid, I always felt rather proud and full of worth when I could share with my classmates that Paul and I had a family connection. Sometimes kids would scoff, but I had a Daughters of the American Revolution pedigree paper that my grandma had given to me prove my claim.

As a child, my pedigree defined me and gave me self-worth.

A Different Kind of Family

When I turned fourteen, I found a different basis for self-esteem. I spent the summer working in the kitchen at a summer camp, and I discovered that I had a different pedigree and an even more impressive lineage than a chance connection to a historical figure.

John 1:12 laid it all out for me, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” I realized for the first time that I have a place in God’s family.

Since God is the king, that makes me a princess, right? And what little girl (or gawky teenager, or hurting young adult, or worn out homemaker, or middle-aged granny) doesn’t want to be a princess?

So listen to me, friend. You can join the family. God wants you to step up and accept your lineage. We don’t have to put on our princess costume, and clean ourselves up before we join the family. We only have to accept the invitation and then let God do the cleaning up and transforming.

As an adult, my heavenly heritage defines me. Listen to your Father.  He wants to reveal your heritage to you and dress you like a princess.

Surreal

9/11 and Caregiving

In those surreal moments, remember you're not alone

In those surreal moments, remember you’re not alone

Surreal.  It’s a feeling that has been following me around this week.

Today, 9/11, definitely sparks memories of that day 15 years ago when I walked my oldest into her first grade classroom to find her teacher not paying attention to the arrival of the children like he usually did.  Instead he sat transfixed in front of the wall-mounted TV.  I watched reruns of the plane hitting the first tower, my heart rate increasing with each commentator’s announcement. Just as I wrapped my mind around one plane and one tower, another plane came from the side of the screen and blew into the second tower.  I made sure the teacher was watching the kids again, then I ran home.  And that is not a figure of speech.  I ran.  All the way home.  I burst into the bathroom and updated my husband and then glued myself to the television for the next couple of hours.

Surreal.

Over and over watching the planes crash, seeing items falling from the building and gradually realizing it was people jumping.  And then the worst moment, the collapse of the tower.  By the collapse of the second tower, feelings were numb.  The surreal feeling was the absolute certainty that this was terrorist, that this was planned and that this was evil.  The surreal unknown was that we didn’t know what was next.  Who was next.

Surreal.  The whole thing.

This week, for some reason, I’ve seen one St. Jude Children’s Hospital commercial over and over.  It’s a lovely family with three children (like us) and it appears the oldest has cancer (it was our youngest).  The dad talks about how wonderful it is that St. Jude’s has never given them a bill (why couldn’t we have been in THAT hospital).  The mom talks about the worries you have as a parent and how nice that St. Jude lessens those worries and you can concentrate on your child (concentrate on your child – the only thing a parent can do in that circumstance).  That’s all very nice.  But EVERY time, and I do mean EVERY time, I see that commercial, I get an adrenaline rush and that surreal feeling.

This week, as I watched my cancer-free sixteen-year-old struggle to find his footing in a new school, as I cut his fast-growing hair, as he hugged me from his six-foot-height, that surreal feeling overwhelmed me.  It wasn’t that long ago that we were fighting for his very next breath.  It wasn’t that long ago we were praying with every ounce of energy that he would wake up the next day.  It wasn’t that long ago we anointed him for healing.  It wasn’t that long ago I was pushing his pain med. pump after a bone marrow test and it wasn’t any time at all since I sat with my child, mask over his face, in the playroom, looking out the window at the world – just like in the commercial.

At the end of that commercial my heart aches for that family, and for the countless other families that are in the midst of that surreal moment of catastrophic illness and facing their child’s death.  My heart almost stops when I think of friends whose child did not make it through the battle.  Because while fighting for your child/s life is surreal, losing your child is the worst form of reality.

This blog is for those walking difficult journeys.  Those caregivers who are facing so much uncertainty that the surreal feeling never leaves and overwhelmed is a constant adjective with which you describe your life.  It’s for those who struggle with mental illness, or the loved ones who join in that fight.  It’s for mother’s of sick children, it’s for spouses who have had to change their job description.  It’s for worried dad’s and hurting families and caring friends. Anita and I pray that this blog is a place for anyone in need of the reminder that you’re not alone.

Through every surreal moment in your life, whether it be from memories of 9/11 or from caregiving or from just being careworn; there is someone reading this blog, or writing this blog, who is willing to pray for you.  You’re never alone.  But even better than that, the hope we want to offer is that you are never alone because the Creator of the Universe, the God of life, the Savior of the world, will never leave you nor forsake you.  Someday we’ll understand these surreal moments of life.  Until then, lean on the One who is able.

And if you’d like us to pray for you, please let us know!  Through any surreal moment – – you’re never alone.

Through any surreal moment - - you're never alone Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememondays. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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God’s Timing Is Not All About Me

 

God's timing for our house was perfect. God's timing for our lives is perfect!

God’s timing for our house was perfect. God’s timing for our lives is perfect!

It’s been proven to me, yet again, that God’s timing is perfect.  That His will is best.  That I need to learn to relax: God’s got things under control.  That life is not all about me, that there are others needing things to happen as well.

This spring and early summer has been a crazy time for our family.  My husband and I traveled from one end of the country to the other trying to determine God’s will for our lives (jobs, kids, housing, etc).    After securing a job in California, we decided to post our house as “For Sale by Owner” and let God do His thing.

God’s ‘thing’ was to wait.  God sat quietly while I packed and worried.  We had no place to live in California, and we had no bites on our house.  I packed.  I fretted.

I tried not to, I really did.  I prayed often throughout the day and gave my worries to God – over and over again.  As those sneaky little worries kept coming back, I’d pray them away again. (more…)

Light the Next Step (and trust the Guide for the journey)

View from the top of La Nariz del Indio, Guatemala. Lighting up the boot heels worked – we found our way!

Single file, we trudged through the darkness.  Silence surrounded us, punctuated only by the strained breath of those not used to trekking up a mountain in darkness.  We’d never been on this trail before, and other trails branching off in different directions reminded us to stay closely behind the guide.  Our guide, Miguel, tromped ahead in his knee level rubber boots, grinning broadly whenever hit by the beam of a flashlight and tramping effortlessly along at our pace, at times dropping back to check on the slowest and then jogging ahead to point the way.

I hadn’t been hiking in a long time – not up a mountain anyway.  I live in Kansas.  The elevation and incline were taking their toll, but I doggedly kept behind the guide, my breath growing shorter with every intake.  I also wasn’t used to hiking in the dark.  Miguel had no flashlight – knowing the trail by memory.  The rest of us in the silent group traipsing through the pre-dawn time had a wide variety of light.  My daughter carried her phone that lit up the trail around her feet.  Another, Victor, carried a lantern that flickered with each swing but didn’t lend much assistance to finding the trail.  I had a pak-lite; a light invented for hiking in darkness and for ease of carrying.  It’s tiny and I always have it in my backpack.  So even though we hadn’t planned on this hike, I had my little light and it lit up just enough ahead of me to keep the guide’s feet in my view.  Another lady had a big heavy flashlight with a weak beam that made it hardly worth the weight.  The stars were brilliant overhead and while the peace was amazing, the complete darkness beyond the feeble circles of light made for slightly eerie hiking.

None of us were worried – we were headed as high as we could go in order to watch the sunrise over the volcanic mountains around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

The trail switch backed up the mountain and tourist tennis shoes slipped and slid up the incline.  I stayed as close as I could get to the guide as my eyes could see nothing beyond his shadow.  Labored breathing now punctuated the darkness – my labored breathing.  I couldn’t catch my breath for some strange reason and I began to hear a bit of a whine to my gasps for breath.  I trained my tiny light forward, focusing on the those rubber-boot-heels and trudged on, blessing the family who had gifted me with my pak-lite.  Those boot-heels began to mean the world to me.

Silence continued as I followed those boots up another steep section, tripping over rocks and roots.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet

 And a light unto my Path.

The words sang through my brain.  I couldn’t see the trail. I couldn’t see the top of the mountain.  I couldn’t see the cliff below or the coffee plants mixed in the trees just beyond the edge (I saw those on the way back down).

All I could see were the heels of my guide.  My guide who ran this trail four or five times a day.  My guide who knew ALL the trails on this mountain as well as he knew the faces of his children.  My guide who jogged back along the line to make sure all followed safely behind him.  I pursued those heels over a hole and up another switchback.

I have lots of decisions to make in my life.  I like to have a plan.  I want to know the future.  I prefer to have everything neatly packaged and gift-wrapped before I commit to anything.  I want a million-candle-watt spotlight that will whoosh down the trail and light up the trees on all sides and blind any animal in its path.  I want the beam to swish ahead to the end of the trail and light up any scary spots.  But instead, I have a pak-light.  I have a Word that tells me to trust the feet of my Guide, who knows my life Path like He knows the faces of His children.  I have a tiny but mighty light that illuminates my path only one step at a time, but as long as I can step in each footprint left by my Guide, I can stay on the right trail.

IMG_9520

And when we climbed around the last corner and I grabbed onto rocks and pulled up the last steep part and we rounded the corner we could see the slightly glowing horizon where the sun was preparing its arrival.  We stood entranced, breathing hard, but victorious while Miguel grinned in pride of his mountain and view.  We watched the sun rise behind the silhouettes of the volcanos and the rays of warmth reached across the tranquil waters of the lake, welcoming us to a new day.

By trusting the Light and following carefully in the steps of our Guide, we CAN reach the top and experience victory!

By trusting the Light and following carefully in the steps of our Guide, we CAN reach the top and experience victory!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I'm joining my friends @blestbutstrest and @caregiver mom for an #inspirational link up. Check out the great stories! Click To Tweet

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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An Open Letter to the New Cancer Caregiver Mom

New Caregiver MomWay back in that far away place stood a stunned mother, desperately trying to understand, to cope and to still look to the future when the world had narrowed to a small hospital room with a narrow bed and an even smaller boy.

I found out this week that even over 10 years later this same stunned mother still stands, frozen with emotion at times.  I think I’m doing fine:  I can’t really say I’m “normal” because, well, who among us can claim that, but I function quite well, thank you very much.  I teach and I write and I hang with my kids and I sing and I’m, well, shoot, I really am normal!

But then, just when things are plugging along and feeling normal, along comes that word.  That C word: Cancer.  And even more specifically, that L word: Leukemia.  And those rushing whirling feelings return.  They’re different now, but they’re there.

Way back, in those far away and fuzzy times, one of our blessings was a very supportive community.  A part of this community was my husband’s vice-principal who took on any task needed in order to ease our cancer caregiving burdens through that first year of chemotherapy for our four-year-old boy.  His wife understood and quietly helped whenever she was able and prayed for us often.

So when I saw her Facebook post this last week, about a student’s shocking leukemia diagnosis, you can imagine how my mind took flight to those long ago, whirl-wind days of learning our son was fighting each moment in an internal war.  I instant-messaged my friend, and we began to dialogue and she told me she’d already shared a piece of my journey with the ‘new mother’.  The mother I imagine stands in a horrifying swirl of new vocabulary, new schedules and a new “normal”.  Could she connect us to each other?

Oh my, yes.!  Because in that whirling foggy world of a cancer diagnosis, one can always use an anchor of someone who’s been there.  Someone who’s come out the other side.  Someone who understands that in spite of the most amazing community of support one can feel alone.  Someone who knows what it feels like to hold your child while they’re poked with needles.  Someone who’s worn gloves in order to touch their child.  Someone who’s discouraged visitors from the isolation room of the cancer ward.  Someone who’s watched a Disney movie for the 4, 875th time.  Someone who would give ANYTHING to be in that bed in place of their child.  Someone who has been forever changed by their journey and can offer support and yes, tell you that you’ll be okay. So here’s my letter to every new cancer caregiver mom out there:

Dear Caregiver Mom;

Your “normal” will be different, in ways you’re only beginning to understand, and really, as much as you tell yourself to hang on until life “returns to normal”, you’ll gradually realize it won’t ever return to the way it was; but you’ll be okay.

Your cancer education, started this week, will continue with an intensity that will startle you and then all of the sudden you’ll be the one reminding the doctors of the treatment protocol and you’ll know all the medication names and you’ll have the schedule memorized and your life will revolve around doctors and hospitals, fevers and blood counts; and you’ll be okay.

Complete strangers will become some of your best friends and you will see beauty in a whole new way because of the giving spirit of people and you’ll know the nurses by the sound of their footsteps and you’ll get mad at insurance agents and wonder who in the world you’ve become, but the new you is going to be okay.

You and God might have some intense conversations and you might not agree with Him, you might yell or cry and you’ll definitely laugh with tears; and through every step of this horrible journey of mothering and caregiving your leukemic son, God will never leave you nor forsake you, and you’ll be okay.

I would like to tell you that your son will be healed and his miraculous story will guide him through the next 85 years, but we don’t know that yet do we?  What we know is that God loves your boy and God loves you and no matter the outcome of this horrid process of leukemia treatment, you ALL will be okay.  God promises eternal love and so you will be all right.

You’re stronger than you ever imagined, and you can do things you never expected, and in the end, you’ll be okay.

That’s the thing, dear reader, whatever you’re facing, no matter how you feel in this moment right now,  in the end you WILL BE okay.  God’s got you.  God’s got the one you love.  You’ll all be okay.

Sincerely, 

Caregiver Mom

Rise to the Occasion and Do What Terrifies You

John 12:26Rise and follow seem to go together like macaroni and cheese. But sometimes, I feel like it would be easier to just sit on the ground—paralyzed and holding out my alms cup waiting for grace to trickle in.

But when Jesus heals us—whether it’s from addictions, sorrow, grief, illness, depression, mental illness, ennui, anger or attitude—he also asks us to follow.

And following often seems harder than rising. If I follow Jesus, I can no longer sit.

If I follow Jesus I can no longer sit. Click To TweetI must learn to do—because that’s what Jesus did. He took on injustice and called it by name. He called children to him and blessed them. He hung out with sinners and tax collectors and people who didn’t grow up in his socio-economic bracket.

He acted. And that’s where I struggle. I’d rather read about injustice in my Facebook newsfeed than do something about it (although I am learning to speak out). I’d rather donate a little money here and there to solve a big problem, than to sit down next to someone in their messy problem and show them empathy.

I can’t use the fact that I’m an introvert as an excuse. So tomorrow, I’m stepping way outside my comfort zone and we’re taking two teenage boys camping and mountain biking with us to Moab. They’re boys that have gone on many of our rides this school year, and they need a little TLC.

We raised two girls. All I know about boys is that they eat a lot. I hope I have enough food to feed them. I worry about what we’ll talk about during the long drive there.

The situation terrifies me. But I know that I worry too much and that with God leading, I can rise to the occasion and he’ll show me what to do and give me words to speak.

How about you? Have you ever followed Jesus with fear and trembling into an unknown experience?